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Beating Shitty Defenses: the 2008 Texas Longhorns

I've spent some time here and there over the last couple of days collecting statistical data on the Texas offense and organizing it into an Excel spreadsheet. The idea is to analyze the offensive performance of the Longhorns from 1999-2008 and look for interesting trends, patterns, etc. Primarily, my goal is to rethink my estimation of Greg Davis in light of his post-2004 performance. At this point, I honestly don't know if this effort will amount to anything. I don't have Huckleberry's skill or patience with spreadsheets, and the upcoming season will provide ample distractions for what amounts to a typical off-season-boredom-inspired exercise. But one interesting statistic jumped out at me, and I thought I'd share it with the class.

As part of my study, I kept track of the national ranking of Texas's opponents' defenses. Between 1999-2005, the average rank of defenses Texas faced was typically better than national median ranking. Only once in that time (2003) was the average YPGA rank of Texas' opponents worse than the median and even then only by 2.76 spots. In many years, the average defense Texas faced was significantly better than the national median: 16.4 spots better in 1999, 6.4 spots better in 2002 and 7.5 spots better in 2005.

Since 2005, however, the quality of Texas's opposing defenses has dropped precipitously. In 2006, the average opposing defense ranking was 5.7 spots worse than the national median. In 2007, Texas' average defensive opponent fell 6.6 spots worse than the median. And, in 2008, the average ranking of Longhorn defensive foes was ... drumroll please ... 23.9 places off the national median.

Yes, you read that correctly. I think. Well, I honestly can't be sure how you read it. But here it is again, elaborated in other terms. The Longhorns' opponents averaged #83.9 in the national YGPA rankings. That puts Texas's average opponent in 2008 comfortably in the bottom 1/3rd of defenses nationwide. Only one defense we faced all season ranked in the Top 60 (upper 50%) of all defenses: Ohio State. Twelve of Texas' fourteen opponents fielded defensive units ranked #72 or lower; nine ranked #85 or lower; and the Horns played 1/3rd of the worst nine defenses in the country.

So, how much of Texas's offensive success in 2008 is attributable to an historically pathetic slate of opponents? For that matter, has our offense - and, consequently, our perception of Greg Davis' capabilities - benefited from a run of lame opposing defenses since the National Championship?